Transcriptional networks are tightly controlled in plant development and stress responses. Alternative polyadenylation (APA) has been found to regulate gene expression under abiotic stress by increasing the heterogeneity at mRNA 3′-ends. Heavy metals like cadmium pollute water and soil due to mining and industry applications. Understanding how plants cope with heavy metal stress remains an interesting question. The Arabidopsis root hair was chosen as a single cell model to investigate the functional role of APA in cadmium stress response. Primary root growth inhibition and defective root hair morphotypes were observed. Poly(A) tag (PAT) libraries from single cell types, i.e., root hair cells, non-hair epidermal cells, and whole root tip under cadmium stress were prepared and sequenced. Interestingly, a root hair cell type-specific gene expression under short term cadmium exposure, but not related to the prolonged treatment, was detected. Differentially expressed poly(A) sites were identified, which largely contributed to altered gene expression, and enriched in pentose and glucuronate interconversion pathways as well as phenylpropanoid biosynthesis pathways. Numerous genes with poly(A) site switching were found, particularly for functions in cell wall modification, root epidermal differentiation, and root hair tip growth. Our findings suggest that APA plays a functional role as a potential stress modulator in root hair cells under cadmium treatment.

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Published in Frontiers in Plant Science, v. 10, 589, p. 1-13.

© 2019 Cao, Ye, Hao, Dabney-Smith, Hunt and Li.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

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This project was supported in part by funding from the National Key Research and Development Project of China (2016YFE0108800 to QQL), from United States NSF (IOS-154173 to QQL) and from Academic Challenge grants of the former Botany and now Biology Department, Miami University (to JC).

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The Supplementary Material for this article can be found online at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpls.2019.00589/full#supplementary-material